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Fostering students' critical thinking in English language teacher education: a comparative case study of two master’s programs in Applied Linguistics/TESOL in Australia and Vietnam

posted on 2023-02-24, 03:44 authored by Thi Nu Anh Vo

Critical thinking (CT) is a vital skill, expected of university graduates and sought after by most employers across the globe. This research study investigates the similarities and differences in the fostering of students’ CT between two master’s programs in Applied Linguistics/TESOL, one in Australia and one in Vietnam, with a view to providing insights into how CT can best be incorporated in English language teacher education (ELTE). 

The study is designed as a qualitative comparative case study to examine (1) the extent to which CT is built into learning outcomes, (2) teaching and learning practices around CT, (3) students’ personal journeys in developing their CT and lecturers’ journeys in shaping their teaching practices around CT, (4) evidence of CT in students’ written assignments, and (5) evidence of CT in students’ group discussions. The overarching analytical framework is adapted from Candlin et al.’s (2017) multi-perspectival approach to discourse analysis, which provides a means for the phenomenon of CT in ELTE to be investigated from multiple perspectives and for those perspectives to be brought together in a collaborative and meaningful way. Data were collected through unit guides, lecture observations, questionnaires, narrative inquiry tasks, interviews, students’ written assignments, and students’ group discussions. 

Findings show that CT was strongly built into the curriculum and generally properly integrated into teaching in both programs. However, there were clear differences between the two programs in their focus on CT skills, CT dispositions, and critical actions as well as in teaching strategies, activities, and tasks implemented in the classroom. Generally, CT skills were more systematically incorporated into many units of the Australian program. The study also reveals that the students in both programs deployed a wide range of metadiscursive resources to present their arguments, show their stance, and engage with readers and listeners in their written assignments and group discussions. However, the students in Australia tended to show clearer evidence of CT than their peers in Vietnam. While the students in Australia seemed to be more explicit in marking transitions and relationships between arguments in their written assignments and rhetorically taking stances in their written assignments and group discussions, the students in Vietnam were more likely to draw on linguistic resources to structure discourse in their written assignments and to bring their audience into their arguments in group discussions. A notable finding of the study is that participants’ development in CT was affected by various contributory factors, among which the most important ones were education, maturity, and intercultural experiences. These findings inform a range of theoretical and pedagogical implications.


Macquarie University scholarship


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Literature review -- Chapter 3: Methodology -- Chapter 4: Data analysis and findings: social/institutional perspective -- Chapter 5: Data analysis and findings: participants’ perspective -- Chapter 6: Data analysis and findings: social action perspective -- Chapter 7: Data analysis and findings: (written) text perspective -- Chapter 8: Data analysis and findings: (spoken) text perspective -- Chapter 9: Discussion and conclusion -- References -- Appendices

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Stephen Moore

Additional Supervisor 1

John Knox


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




Australia Vietnam


422 pages

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